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How to get married during the COVID-19 pandemic

Wedding licenses are down in Multnomah County, but a local wedding planner says interest in the process is still strong.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Although fewer people are trying to get married during the pandemic, interest in the changing legal process is still there.

When Oregonians began stay-at-home precautions in March, Multnomah County shifted its process. It now allows people to apply for marriage licenses online, then mail the signed paperwork, instead of going to the office in person.

That said, fewer people are getting married compared to this time last year.

Multnomah County sent KGW these number comparisons of marriage licences issued:

April 2019 - 457 
April 2020 - 347

May 2019 - 640
May 2020 - 441

June 2019 - 688
June 2020 - 519

Elisabeth Kramer is a day-of wedding planner in Portland. She said her website explaining the legal process to get married during COVID-19 has seen a big jump in views.

"Unfortunately we can't gather, at least not in a way a lot of couples originally planned," Kramer said. "It's kind of a choose your own adventure right now."

Kramer explained with many couples changing or postponing their plans, some are opting to legally marry first and wait to host a bigger in-person ceremony.

In Oregon, legal marriage requires a couple to gather in the same place as an ordained officiant and two adult witnesses. That group signs the documents that then get mailed to the county.

Kramer warned the legal steps must be taken for a marriage to be official. Oregon is not in a place to legally perform Zoom or virtual weddings, without the officiant and witnesses in the same space as the couple.

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For other couples who had planned on a big ceremony, they're waiting out the storm.

"It was going to be like a hundred people," Elise Realivasquez said.

She and her fiancé, Brian Smith, originally planned to have their wedding at McMenamins in September. Family members from other states were ready to travel to Oregon.

"They had been waiting a long time," Realivasquez said. "It was kind of hard to tell everybody that they can't be there."

"It was like okay, it's another roadblock, how do we get through this?" Smith said.

The couple tried organizing a smaller gathering at a family member's home, but realized social distancing would be tough. They're now hoping for a safer situation by February.

Kramer said this is the common challenge now for couples. Gatherings in Oregon are limited, depending on which phase of reopening a county is in. More people can gather outside than inside, but social distancing and masks are required regardless.

"We gotta be safe, we gotta be healthy at the end of the day," Kramer said. "Take this as an opportunity to have some really great conversations with your fiancé(e) of what you want this to look like. In a lot of ways, time is on our side, so I just encourage couples to explore."

RELATED: Oregon statewide face mask requirement goes into effect today

RELATED: Portlanders share their opinions on what Oregon should do about reopening

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